I am getting used to hearing the words ‘you must have been busy for the past three weeks’. My answer usually is to just smile or to add ‘just a little bit’. I know people are just making polite conversation and I shouldn’t get frustrated by it.
There is a lot written about managing a crisis and what communicators should be doing. It is right that organisations and businesses consider how they would respond to a crisis and that they learn from the experiences of others. But what about the aftermath and the recovery; we say very little about that.
Dealing with an incident is challenging, exhausting and relentless but at some point things reduce and some normality resumes. That for me is when the real challenge for communicators kicks in. Teams are tired and in need of rest. You are still dealing with the incident and the aftermath, at the same time people want normal business to be carried out. This is the time when any additional support will have disappeared and the workload has remained high.
The information sharing and communication activity undertaken in the aftermath of a crisis is as important as the initial phase. If it misjudges the mood or fails to cover the key issues then confidence can be lost. The pressure has not reduced, if anything it has increased. When many in the organisation will be getting back to normal communications is one area that will have to wait for normality.
Our planning and exercises don’t take the long term issues into account. They stop short when they should go further. We need to consider more than just the initial response and be prepared that the long term could be months or even years. Maybe it is time to rethink how we prepare for a crisis and remember it can last a long time. The pressure on communicators will continue and while this is tough it also means there are lots of opportunities to take if you can recognise they exist.
The recovery may not seem as exciting but it is arguably the most critical time. As communicators we need to remember our work continues in earnest even when the camera crews have gone.